Nowadays beets are just about as fashionable as studded high-heel wedge sneakers in Paris (even the darling of fashionable Parisiennes, designer Isabel Marant, is making them). Beets have gained an all-pervasive influence in this city, even among street artists.
While wandering my neighborhood recently, I encountered the above poster, and wondered what the artist had against beets. Signed only Association de defense des maladies cardiovasculaires, these posters were plastered all over the walls of Ménilmontant.
BEETS = DEATH? According to the artist, witches may well be the only ones fit to eat this apparently fatal food. I could imagine BEETS = DIRT, owing to their pleasantly soil-like flavor. Or possibly BEETS = RED HANDS, since they tend to tint your palms while you’re peeling them. But death? Surely they couldn’t be that bad.
Eat like a pauper
According to author Lyn-Genet Recitas, BEETS = LIFE, or at least a life free of pesky food allergies. So I’ve been eating beets lately. Lots of beets. To prepare myself for the voluntary gastronomic onslaught that is the holiday season in France, I decided to do Recitas’ 20-day detox and food allergy detective work explained in her book, The Plan.
As a result, I’ve been spending even more time in the kitchen than usual, using the “non-reactive” foods Recitas prescribes to make soups and salads. We already eat salads almost every other night, summer or winter – David-Nicolas is the self-proclaimed “king of the salad” and I can definitely back up his claim to the royal title. His salads are full of fresh and cooked vegetables alike, and as his father (le docteur) always tells us, “For breakfast, eat like a king; for lunch, like a bourgeois; and for dinner, like a pauper.”
- Beets with chèvre, walnuts, and orange dust
- Graffiti in eastern Paris, beets, and Lyn-Genet Recitas’ The Plan, a great holiday-prepping detox diet.
So at the moment we’re prepping beets, carrots, pumpkin, and kale on weekends (but not for breakfast), instead of making our usual wanderings around the neighborhood. It was on one such recent flânerie or aimless walk that I ran into that street art above.
A confession: most of my walks in Paris are spent looking for a cat to pet. Friends call my relationship with cats fusionnelle and I imagine that in about 40 years I’ll be “that crazy cat lady” providing croquettes (cat food) to the felines living in the nearby Père Lachaise cemetery. J’assume – I’m definitely comfortable with that idea.
But there are incidental perks of walking in Paris on Sundays: street art and free furniture. Or whiffs of stewing leeks or sweet garlic emanating from someone’s pressure cooker, whose valve is pointed directly out of a rez-de-chaussée (ground floor) window, like an odor-cannon aimed straight at my nostrils.
My last walk unearthed a few cat teasers…. I knew I had to be getting close, with all these clues! I followed the paw prints, and then, lurking over the villa de l’Ermitage, there was a papier-mâché cat head on the roof of a house, and not too far away, a door sign about the resident cat’s treatment status.
And then… a real live cat. Starved for affection, the cat was more interested in closing in for a camera head-butt than for posing for a picture. I couldn’t blame the beast, so I happily obliged with plenty of love, and then once I’d gotten my cat-fix, I realized I was starving too – not for affection, but for food.
Upon returning home from my walk, this lovely beet salad with chèvre, walnuts, and orange "dust" was on our menu. Along with beets, I’ll be continuing to eat other humble vegetables and “bird seed” (as David-Nicolas calls my sunflower and pumpkin seeds, hmph) for about 10 more days.
But as the holiday season gets under way, we’ll be happily abusing legal substances like champ’ (champagne), oysters, foie gras, along with turkey, and my signature dessert, Gingerbread-apple Cake with Apple Brandy Mousse (also on the menu for my December Cooking classes).
But… I’d love your help. The friends with whom I’ll be supping on Christmas have asked for a non-French holiday food for our table, so I’m looking for ideas. If you’ve got a favorite dish you’d like to recommend, please write your suggestion below my beet salad recipe, or send me a note! Merci beaucoup, et bonnes fêtes!